Sunday, November 26, 2006

Commentary to the Heart Sutra Part 1

Homage to all the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas in the 10 directions. May they forgive & offer me repentance if I misunderstand their teachings; but if I may comment in accordance to the supreme Dharma, let this merit be transfered to all sentient beings in the entire Dharmadhatu, such that they may see their very true minds.

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.

Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra

1. What is Prajna? Prajna is often translated as wisdom. This wisdom is not ordinary worldly wisdom, but the wisdom to see all things as they really are. The scriptures say:

"Prajna does not know, yet there is nothing it does not know.
Prajna does not see, yet there is nothing it does not see."

The body of Prajna is empty like the void, yet in this void contains infinite applications.

"Able to differentiate all phenomena,
Yet remaining unmoved in the Utmost Meaning."

Prajna differentiates all things that comes into contact with it, yet it remains unattached to all things. This is the pure awareness quality of all Buddhas which Avalokitesvara wants all of us to discover in our own mind, which is also the central theme of the Heart Sutra.

2. Paramita - often translated as perfection, or crossing to the other shore.

"This shore" refers to samsara, suffering or delusion.
"Other shore" refers to nirvana, bliss or awakening.

But in reality there's neither "this shore" or "other shore". There is only one shore, the shore of the Buddha-nature, the shore of the Absolute that is freed from all duality. No samsara, no nibbana, no suffering, no bliss, no delusion, no awakening - that is the true Paramita, the true perfection & crossing to the other shore.

3. Hridaya - translated as essence, heart or mind. In Chinese, the character for heart & mind is the same & refers to the same thing.

"Heaven & hell is in the Mind, & so is Nirvana."

The mind is the origin & end of all things. Mind itself is the Buddha, mind itself is the Dharma; when they work in harmony you get the Sangha. When the mind returns in its original state of emptiness, it is called Paramita. From this state of emptiness one sees & knows all phenomena, that is called Prajna. In reality Prajna & Paramita is one & the same thing. Prajna is the Dharma, Paramita is the Buddha. When you combine them you have the Sangha. All these names are just different aspects of the one true Mind!

The whole Heart Sutra could have ended right here. That is all there is to teach. Like the 6th Patriarch said when he first started to preach: Maha Prajna Paramita. He fell silent after that. But seeing that nobody could understand that was all there is to it, he had no choice but to add:

"The Self-nature of Bodhi,
Is fundamentally pure;
With this very mind,
Enter straight into Buddhahood."

4. Which brings us to the term Sutra. Sutra means scripture or thread. Because sentient beings could not grasp the meaning of the wordless, the Buddhas need to use all sort of words as skillful means to refer people to this meaning, which Hui Neng described as "fingers pointing to the moon". The whole Tripitaka & the entire collection of scriptures in the Mahayana Canon are fingers. They exist because people can't see the moon by themselves. If they finally see the moon, then all these billions of words become useless.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, deep in the practice of Prajna-paramita,

1. Yes Avalokitesvara is being long-winded like an old lady here, but he has no choice as people in the assembly could not understand what she wanted to teach. Bodhisattva means a being on the path to Buddhahood, a person seeking Bodhi. He is tricking us here, bcos Avalokitesvara knows very well that Bodhi or enlightenment could not be sought. Seeking brings us even further from our true mind; either u see it or u don't! He IS a Buddha, yet he goes around pretending to be a "Bodhisattva". Shame on him.

2. Avalokitesvara means he who observes the world with freedom (观自在 Guanzizai), or he who listens to the sounds of the world (观世音 Guanshiyin), commonly know as Guanyin. He is the embodiment of compassion in the Buddha-nature. This compassion is greater than the worldy humanism of Confucius & even the godly love of Jesus. How is that so? This compassion is one with the void, devoid of subject & object, self & other, giver & taker. It is what the scriptures described as:

Unconditioned Love, Non-dual Compassion.

This kind of enlightened compassion is untiring & everlasting, surpassing all love arising from religious or humanistic beliefs.

3. Deep in the practice of Prajna Paramita indeed! What does he think Prajna is? A swimming pool? Prajna is empty like space and physical concepts like "deep" & "shallow" does not exist. It is neither within, without, or in between. It cannot even be grasped, what more be practiced? Simply abandon all false thoughts & Prajna Paramita is right there! Being beyond both the mundane & supramundane knowledges, how can it be confined to worldy concepts of practice & progress? Another trick, ha!

Clearly sees that the 5 aggregates are empty, and thus passes beyond all suffering and distress.

1. clearly sees - here it is not the eye that see, but the mind. The scriptures say:

Neither seeing nor not seeing, that is the Buddha eye.

Thus understand that the nature of the mind & the nature of seeing is one. Seeing is mind, mind is seeing. Without mind there is no seeing, and vice versa.

2. the 5 aggregates - defined as form, feeling, perception, habit & consciousness. These are the components that make up a sentient being's world, what we cling to as Self. Form is the physical elements, the rest of the aggregates are the mind. For eg. a cake is form, our eyes that see it is also form. Being happy, being sad or being neutral towards having a cake, that is feeling. Recognizing that it is a cake is perception. Keeping our attention on the cake is habit. Mentally knowing that you have seen a cake is consciouness.

3. are empty - the nature of form, feeling, perception, habit & consciousness are fundamentally void. Being void it neither arises nor ceases. How can they be separated from the Buddha-nature? How can they be apart from Nirvana?

"All Dharmas do not arise,
All Dharmas do not cease,
If you can see likewise,
All Buddhas appear as you please."

4. passes beyond all suffering and distress - there is nobody at all! There are only physical & mental components which by themselves are just neutral faculties. Who is there to suffer then? Suffering arises only due to our own clinging. Being blinded by Avijja or root ignorance, we conjure up false feelings of craving or aversion towards form, which lead to birth & death. But if we can give up all these false feelings, the mind will simply return to its original equanimity. This is what Avalokitesvara meant by passing beyond all suffering. A cake is just a cake. What is there to be happy or sad about?

"When the mind arises all Dharmas arise,
When the mind ceases all Dharmas cease."

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. The same is true of feeling, perception, habit and consciousness.

1. Shariputra - the Buddha's Chief Disciple, foremost in wisdom. Though he is wisest among the Sravakas, in the Prajna Paramita Sutras, Shariputra often ends up as the whipping boy. Why? Because 1 million Shariputras cannot fathom the Prajna wisdom of the Buddhas. The problem with Sravakas lie with their limited capacity. How are they limited? Sravakas have abandoned all clinging to Self, but they are not able to give up clinging to Nirvana. They are averse to birth & death and would rather stay indefinitely in the bliss of cessation. That is why when Shariputra sat in meditation in the forest, Vimalakirti came along and admonished him. Wise as Shariputra is, his wisdom is limited and the limited cannot fill up the Absolute no matter how many millions of times it mulitplies itself. Thus the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment said:

"Good man, the heart of complete enlightenment of all Buddhas is devoid of Bodhi & Nirvana; neither is there a concept of attaining or not attaining Buddhahood, not even a concept of false Samsara or not Samsara exists. Good man, even all the enlightened Sravaka Arahants, with their mind, body & speech gone into extinction, cannot fathom the Nirvana that I have attained on my own. What more for ordinary beings, with their conventional thinking, trying to define the completely enlightened state of the Tathagata?"

2. Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form - What is form, what is emptiness? In the past there was a wise sage who wanted to teach his son the the meaning of reality. He told his son to pluck a fruit from a big Banyan tree. The son did as he was told, & the sage asked him to open the fruit and see what was inside. When his son found some tiny seeds inside, the sage again asked him to split the seeds & check what was inside. The son managed to split the seeds after some effort and found that there was nothing inside! The sage then said:

"Dear son, the essence of life of this big Banyan tree is hidden within this tiny seed, yet there is nothing inside it. The nature of all existence is also like that, hidden within that subtle nothingness. That is the real you; you are not apart from that nothingness."

All forms come into being due to the combination of various conditions. They may appear different from each other, yet when split up into its most basic component, one cannot find anything within them. How then are they different from emptiness? You see a beautiful car, or a nubile young lady; your mind urges you to possess them because you cling to its present form. But if the car is suddenly wrecked, or the young lady suddenly turns into a wrinkled, old hag - where does your urge dissappear to?

3. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form - When your mind arises, form also arises. That is form. Seeing the true nature of form, & understanding that there is nothing to grasp to, the mind ceases. That is emptiness. From emptiness can arise infinite Dharmas, that is form. From infinite Dharmas all return to its source of nothingness, that is emptiness. When you see you own Buddha-nature, you also see that there is no form, no emptiness, no mind. From there, mind is form, mind is emptiness, mind is everything, mind is nothing. Form, emptiness, everything & nothing, these are only false names. There is no Dharma other than the Mind. That is the meaning of form is emptiness.

4. The same is true of feeling, perception, habit & consciousness - If form itself has no real substance, what more for the feeling, perception, habit & consciousness that arise because of form? The Avatamsaka Sutra said:

"Why speak of the various aggregates,
What nature do these aggregates have?
Such a nature cannot be destroyed,
Thus it is known as the Unborn."

The nature of the 5 aggregates is not apart from the Unborn. Why must you add false thoughts to them and create your own suffering? The 6th Patriach said:

"Aggregates & the world,
Ordinary beings see them as dual;
The wise man clearly understands,
That their nature is non-dual.
This nature which is non-dual,
Is none other than the Buddha-nature."

The only difference between an ordinary being & a wise man is that the former chases after form, whereas the wise man does not. If you stop chasing after form, then you too will not be far from Nirvana.

(to be continued..)

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